burning, despite the apparent cold
burning, despite the apparent cold december stories
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anha
anha Community member
Autoplay OFF   •   10 days ago
we didn't always burn come December.

burning, despite the apparent cold

1995

It is long before our generation has a voice when it snows like the sky is falling.

It is a blizzard, a true Northern Hemisphere December; a Christmas your grandparents talk about, the storybooks talk about.

Powder whiter than cotton covering the fields as far as the eye can see. I am not yet born - just a mere embryo in the fabric of my mother's womb - but I can imagine them like this:

My mother shivers in her China-girl skin; she is from Singapore, the equator's sun-kissed port, and unused to this weather.

My father - her soon-to-be husband - should be comfortable in this climate, but even he is longing for more temperate regions.

My grandparents are one with the European winter, but even this deluge of sleet makes my grandmother shut the door extra tightly.

My grandfather feeds some wood to the furnace in the cellar - even now he is not as strong as he was in his youth; the axe grows heavy in his calloused farmer's hands - and

the house blushes from the blistering cold outside.

She is warm, she will keep them warm, but the steel railings would burn your infant fingers 'til they are red and raw with the realization that this cold, this winter, is December incarnate.

My mother will laugh and tell the story of this blizzard for years to come. Almost as if remembering, she shivers slightly when she tells it.

1997

It snows in January, a gentle flurry; there is no blizzard.

2015

The pollen from the emerging Spring still lingers, and the air is still cool in the mornings.

That will change, but only in January do the truly atrocious summer temperatures hit in full;

days where it feels like the sands of the Sahara Desert are spilling onto our urban asphalt with the fury of a thousand suns within their infinite grains.

But we do not want that, therefore we do not wait for it.

My mother puts a wreath on our front door and time seems to click into place.

Capitalism takes a priority during December, a big red stamp across the globe that announces, "CHRISTMAS IS HERE. BUY TREES, HAMS, TURKEYS, WHATEVER YOU BLOODY PEOPLE WANT. JUST GIVE US MONEY."

The shopping centre's Christmas tree has stood erect since November. Something in me imagines it must be at least ten metres tall. Its baubles could fit my brother's height within them.

But large things look so much bigger to a child. Realistically, it is probably only eight metres tall.

And my brother could only fit in a bauble if he curled up tightly and put his mind to becoming a contortionist.

We send letters to "Santa" (I convinced my brother that he doesn't exist but we both fancy the idea of extorting an old man in the North Pole as long as we possibly can) and receive letters back from Australia Post.

They fancy themselves elves - even though the elves are likely underpaid Chinese employees with dwarfism - and assure us our due desserts are coming.

On Christmas night, we drive around the rich neighbourhoods and admire their lights.

You can't see a star in the sky with all the light pollution, but the fluorescence promises that they are much more brilliant than anything you can find up there.

And for an hour, I choose to believe them.

My brother gets a golf set, uses it once, and then it lies untouched in the garage until we give it to Vinnies.

Capitalism lights a Marlboro.

2019

We wake up to burning bush and smoke that clogs your chest. Those with asthma struggle to breathe; we don't run for the bus anymore.

One day of breathing Sydney air is like smoking 28 cigarettes, says one news article. 32, says another, 40, the next. Carbon turning to cancer in our adolescent lungs.

Politicians extinguish their concerns into ashtrays, and make sure to ignore the climate strikes.

I could say that I go to those rallies and fight for our dying planet, but I'd be lying.

I can say I wish I'd gone to those rallies, forged a doctor's certificate for my preposterous school policies, and shouted with the rest of the world that something needs to change.

But instead I sit in a classroom with peeling wallpaper and a substitute teacher who hasn't fully grasped that this sea of blank faces is counting the minutes she keeps us from opening our laptops.

The heat is stifling and there is no air conditioning here.

Conversations on the playground take a turn; instead of talking about trivial things, we're talking about the fires, the smoke, the burning, the fires.

Koalas deemed functionally extinct.

"Lara didn't come to school yesterday; she lives in the Blue Mountains, is she ok?"

Only when a friend says at the bus stop, "Christmas is four weeks away," do we remember that's what December used to be about.

But is it fair to think about buying presents for those who have so much when so many are losing all they have?

Capitalism seems to take a back seat, even with the extra brochures and flyers being thrust through the bulging slot of your mailbox.

The fires rage on - every night, news presenters' even tones seem to get a little more desperate;

they live here too, and since wildlife and wildfires don't watch TV, there seems to be nothing they can do about it.

It's December and there's nothing we can do about it.

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